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Strange new world, p.1
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       Strange New World, p.1

           Rachel Vincent
 
Strange New World


  ALSO BY RACHEL VINCENT

  The Stars Never Rise

  The Flame Never Dies

  Brave New Girl

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  Text copyright © 2018 by Rachel Vincent

  Cover art copyright © 2018 by Gustavo Marx/MergeLeft Reps

  All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.

  Delacorte Press is a registered trademark and the colophon is a trademark of Penguin Random House LLC.

  Visit us on the Web! GetUnderlined.com

  Educators and librarians, for a variety of teaching tools, visit us at RHTeachersLibrarians.com

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Name: Vincent, Rachel, author.

  Title: Strange new world / Rachel Vincent.

  Description: First edition. | New York : Delacorte Press, [2018] | Sequel to: Brave new girl. | Summary: Dahlia thinks all of her clones have been destroyed, but then discovers that one still exists—Waverly Whitmore, who is teenage royalty, a media sensation with millions of fans—who has no idea that she is a clone.

  Identifiers: LCCN 2017043433 | ISBN 978-0-399-55249-6 (hc) | ISBN 978-0-399-55251-9 (ebook)

  Subjects: | CYAC: Cloning—Fiction. | Genetic engineering—Fiction. | Science fiction.

  Classification: LCC PZ7.V7448 Sv 2018 | DDC [Fic]—dc23

  Ebook ISBN 9780399552519

  Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.

  v5.2

  ep

  Contents

  Cover

  Also by Rachel Vincent

  Title Page

  Copyright

  Dedication

  Prologue

  Chapter One: Waverly

  Chapter Two: Dahlia

  Chapter Three: Dahlia

  Chapter Four: Waverly

  Chapter Five: Dahlia

  Chapter Six: Waverly

  Chapter Seven: Dahlia

  Chapter Eight: Dahlia

  Chapter Nine: Waverly

  Chapter Ten: Dahlia

  Chapter Eleven: Waverly

  Chapter Twelve: Dahlia

  Chapter Thirteen: Waverly

  Chapter Fourteen: Dahlia

  Chapter Fifteen: Waverly

  Chapter Sixteen: Waverly

  Chapter Seventeen: Dahlia

  Chapter Eighteen: Dahlia

  Chapter Nineteen: Waverly

  Chapter Twenty: Dahlia

  Chapter Twenty-one: Waverly

  Chapter Twenty-two: Dahlia

  Chapter Twenty-three: Waverly

  Chapter Twenty-four: Dahlia

  Chapter Twenty-five: Waverly

  Chapter Twenty-six: Dahlia

  Chapter Twenty-seven: Waverly

  Chapter Twenty-eight: Dahlia

  Chapter Twenty-nine: Waverly

  Chapter Thirty: Dahlia

  Chapter Thirty-one: Waverly

  Chapter Thirty-two: Dahlia

  Epilogue: Dahlia

  Acknowledgments

  About the Author

  To my husband, whose dedication to my career has let me live my dream. I want the same thing for you.

  AT ONE POINT OR another, most parents declare their daughter to be the most beautiful girl in the world. When I was four, I learned how to use the wall screen to search for my name, which was when I discovered that my parents might actually have been right. People loved them. People loved me.

  Other girls wanted to be me.

  I didn’t figure out that most kids don’t see their picture on national news feeds and gossip sites until I was six or seven. That was around the time I discovered that photographers didn’t follow most families when they went out for dinner or to the theater. That most kids didn’t have a full-time security detail.

  When I was nine, my father gave me a beta version of the e-glass technology my parents’ company had invented. I was the third person in the world to own one.

  The dress I wore to my twelfth birthday party sold out within minutes of the footage airing. The next day, half the girls in my class were wearing it.

  I never bought off the rack again.

  The year I turned fourteen, Network 4 offered me my own show. Twelve episodes per season, and cameras would follow me around for one week every month. The demand, they said, was huge. If I gave people a window into my life, they might stop trying to tear down my walls.

  They didn’t mention that the ratings would make the network a fortune.

  The day we started filming, I had a brand-new wardrobe, each piece designed specifically for me. I had a hair and makeup crew to create a signature look, using products from my debut cosmetics line. I felt like a princess. Like the most beautiful girl in the world. I thought I was special. Unique.

  I’ve never been more wrong about anything in my life.

  With my foot tapping an impatient rhythm on the floor, I poke the air in the direction of the transparent screen covering the far wall of my bedroom. A clock appears in the center. It’s 12:08 a.m. Seren Locke’s birthday party has just ended, and my friends will be posting about it on their way home.

  I flop back onto my bed. I’m not going to look. Only a loser would obsess over a party she missed.

  For two whole minutes, I stare at the ceiling of my room. Then, with a groan, I give in and poke one of the icons on the screen. A long stream of messages covers my wall. To the left of each message is a photo of the person who posted it. Some of the messages are pictures. Others are short video clips, playing silently because I’ve disabled the sound; I don’t want to hear about all the fun my friends had without me.

  My bedroom door slides open with a whisper, startling me, and I swipe my hand at the screen, closing the message stream. The e-glass fogs over, then becomes transparent again, showing the wall behind it, which is painted in subtle stripes of ivory and honey milk. Or, as my fiancé describes the colors, white and a little less white.

  “Knock, knock,” my father says from the doorway, though the door is open. I’ve set it to let him in but to keep my mother out. Of course, she can override the settings, but the fact that I want to keep her out is enough to make my point.

  My dad doesn’t say anything, but he saw my screen. He knows I was secretly stalking my friends. “What, no camera crew today?” He glances around my room in mock disbelief as he steps inside, carrying a covered tray.

  “What would be the point?” I get up, and the pink-and-white comforter smooths itself out, leaving a flawless, wrinkle-free finish. “Why would the world want to see me sitting here staring at the wall?”

  He smiles as he sets the tray on my dresser. “The world wants to see everything ‘the people’s princess’ does.”

  I shrug. I have fun playing princess on camera, but my father knows me like my followers and cyberstalkers never will.

  “You know, we have servants to do that.” I lift my chin at the tray.

  “I am aware. But when your daughter already has everything, sometimes the only thing left to give her is a personal touch.”

/>   “That is so cheesy.” I roll my eyes, but I can’t hide my smile.

  “Actually, it’s chocolaty.” He pulls the lid from the tray, revealing two steaming mugs of something divinely sweet-smelling. “Organic Swiss cocoa.”

  “Mom’s cocoa?”

  He nods. “First shipment of the season.”

  Okay, yes, it’s just hot chocolate. Except that the cocoa beans this chocolate comes from are organically harvested from a farm overseas. Grown in actual dirt and watered by hand. Harvested by hand. Dried and processed by hand. Packaged by hand.

  All that specialized labor makes the cocoa insanely expensive.

  My mother has a cup with breakfast every morning.

  “And…” My father lifts a smaller dome lid from an opaque glass bowl at the back of the tray. “Hand-cut chocolate-hazelnut marshmallows.”

  “Does Mom know you dug into her stash?” I take a mug and use a tiny pair of tongs to drop two large, fluffy marshmallows into it. A glance at the thermostat on the side of the mug tells me it’s set to keep the contents at perfect sipping temperature.

  “We’re celebrating. Let me worry about your mother.” My dad picks up his own mug, then settles into my desk chair as I sit on the edge of my bed. “I assume you’ve seen the ratings?”

  “The second they were posted.” I consider a modest shrug, but modesty isn’t really my thing. So I give him a huge grin. “Highest viewership of a reality show ever recorded. The proposal episode broke the record.”

  “My daughter, the most famous person in the world.” He takes a sip. “So why aren’t you swinging from the chandelier?”

  I give him a look. He knows exactly why I’m sulking. How ridiculous is it that I am the single most valuable asset on network and I’m grounded?

  “Waverly, are you really going to let one missed party overshadow the good news? Why wouldn’t she let you go, anyway?”

  I tuck my legs beneath me on the bed and blow into my mug. “I honestly have no idea.” My father arches one brow at me, but I talk over his skepticism. “No, really. She just said I couldn’t go. No reason. She won’t even talk about it.”

  “That’s strange.”

  Normally, my mother is logical to a fault, but…“It’s like she has something against Seren. She grounded me last year on his birthday too.” I pluck a marshmallow from my cocoa and bite into it, frowning as I chew. “And she dragged us all on vacation during Sofia’s birthday party this year, remember? Maybe it’s not just Seren she doesn’t like, but the whole Locke family….”

  “I think you’re reading a little too much into it,” my dad says.

  “Or maybe it’s Seren and Sofia’s mother. The Administrator could creep anyone out.” I take the first sip from my mug. The cocoa is decadently sweet and creamy. The kind of thing I should be enjoying on camera.

  “So why is missing this party such a tragedy, anyway? There’s still a cyber-blackout at Lakeview, right?”

  My silent sip tells him more than actually answering would.

  “Ah. That’s it,” he says. “What happens in Lakeview stays in Lakeview, right? Because of the blackout.”

  There are only two parties a year in Lakeview—Seren’s birthday party and Sofia’s birthday party—and because the Lakeview compound is a digital dark zone, you can do whatever you want without worrying about video showing up online. While you’re there, it’s like you don’t really exist, except to the other people at the party. It’s liberating, in an oddly low-tech way.

  At least, that’s what I’ve heard.

  “Waverly, we can cancel the show if you’re feeling overexposed,” my father says, his brows lowered in concern. “I said from the beginning, as soon as it stops being fun—”

  “No! I love the show.” Even though it means the entire world sees everything that happens in my life. My mom actually got hate mail for grounding me from Seren’s party, which feels a little bit like a victory. “Besides, the ink ceremony is tomorrow, and our design is going to make history. The ratings are going to be even higher than they were for the proposal.”

  I smile just thinking about that episode. Hennessy put so much work into keeping his proposal a secret from me. Into truly surprising me. And for those few minutes, it had felt like we were the only two people in the world, in spite of the cameras. He’d reserved the entire National Garden, and while I’d stood there, surrounded by a thousand tulips—my signature flower—he’d dropped to one knee with a tulip in his hand, and—

  I blink, shaking off the memory, and find my father watching me, the ghost of a smile haunting his mouth.

  “Speaking of which…,” I say before he can get all emotional and remind me that we can still delay the wedding by a couple of years. “I’ve decided on a dress. I haven’t even shown Mom yet.” With my mug in one hand, I swipe in the direction of my screen and it lights up, showing every app I left running when I turned it off. I gesture toward the one in the top right corner, and it zooms into the center of the wall, showing a two-foot-tall interactive image of my wedding dress.

  “One hundred percent,” I command as I stand and set my mug on my nightstand. Fabric rustles behind me as my comforter smooths itself out again, and as the dress on the screen grows to its full size, I shrug out of the robe I’m wearing over a black leotard designed to work with the app.

  “Dressing room.” I step in front of the glass, and the image on-screen turns the reflection of my bedroom into an old-fashioned dressing room, with the last few ensembles I bought hanging on hooks on the walls, waiting to be tried on. In the center of the screen, my dress rotates until I’m looking at the back. I hold my hands up, and the dress rises, then falls over my reflection.

  On-screen, I’m wearing my wedding dress.

  “Oh…” My father stands and steps forward until his image is in the dressing room with me. It’s strange to see him here. I shop for clothes with my mom all the time, but rarely with my dad. The look on his face is exactly what I was hoping for. “You look beautiful, sweetheart.”

  But he hasn’t seen anything yet.

  “Hair,” I command. “Final selection.” The image on-screen blurs for an instant, then comes back into focus. My hair is now swept up into a cluster of dark, glossy curls, dusted with highly reflective glitter. I turn, and my reflection on the screen turns to show him the back of my updo.

  “Makeup,” I say as I face the mirror again. “Semifinal selection, ‘Morning Dew.’ ”

  My face blurs on the screen, then refocuses with one of my favorite looks in place—a natural-but-better look with rosy cheeks, nude lipstick, subtle contouring, and a slightly more dramatic eye, to draw people’s focus where I want it: to my best feature.

  “Very elegant,” my father says. That’s one of only three or four phrases he has to describe any look I show him, but he means it. I can see that in his eyes.

  “Thanks.” I swipe my hand across the screen and the app minimizes; then the screen fogs over and returns to its translucent sleep-state. “We’ve gotten a lot of requests for a glimpse of the dress, but I decided to keep it secret.” I shrug into my robe again and reclaim my cocoa. “It’ll play better on the show if everyone’s anticipating the reveal.”

  “Well, I think anything you choose would look wonderful on you, but that is truly stunning, Waverly.” He frowns. “I won’t tell your mother I’ve seen it, but you should show her soon, or you’ll hurt her feelings.”

  “I would have shown her tonight if she hadn’t grounded me.”

  A beep echoes from my father’s pocket, and I swallow a lump of disappointment when he stands. “Work calls,” he says, pulling his tablet out to glance at the new message. It looks backward to me, seen through the reverse side of the transparent device, and I don’t bother trying to read it. Most of his work stuff is superdull.

  “Thanks for the cocoa.” I lift my
mug in a gesture of appreciation as he heads for the hall.

  “I can’t believe my baby’s about to get married,” he says as the door opens. “You know, we could put this off for a couple more years. You just turned eighteen.”

  But I don’t want to wait. I can’t afford to wait. “You heard the doctor.”

  “I did. And I understand. I just want you to be happy. Good night, sweetheart.” But his happy/supportive expression slips into concern a second before the door slides closed.

  Alone again, I swipe at the screen to wake up the glass. “Send someone to remove this tray.”

  “Command received,” a sexy male voice responds. “A server will come for it immediately.”

  I open my public message feed again. Normally after a party, it would be filled with video clips and pics showing my friends dancing, eating, and generally looking gorgeous and glamorous, but thanks to the cyber-ban from Lakeview, all I get are text messages spoken into their tablets and pics and vids taken in their cars on the way home.

  Before I open the messages, I disable the activity notification so no one will know I’m low-key obsessed with a party I didn’t get to attend. As far as they’re all concerned, I’m much too busy planning the wedding of the century to bother.

  I poke the first post. It’s from a very gossipy classmate.

  Surprise of the night! Waverly Whitmore shows up! Rumor has it she was wearing a borrowed dress, but she owned the look tonight!

  Wait, what?

  Frowning, I poke message after message, watching videos of groups of my friends pouring champagne in the backs of their cars while they discuss the party on their way home. They rate the menu and the guest list. They dish about some scandalous invasion of the event by Lakeview soldiers searching for a fugitive—what?—and there’s an entire text thread dedicated to couples who turned the dance floor into a make-out session.

 
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